The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 3,418 pages of information about The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

When I employ myself upon a Paper of Morality, I generally consider how I may recommend the particular Virtue which I treat of, by the Precepts or Examples of the ancient Heathens; by that Means, if possible, to shame those who have greater Advantages of knowing their Duty, and therefore greater Obligations to perform it, into a better Course of Life; Besides that many among us are unreasonably disposed to give a fairer hearing to a Pagan Philosopher, than to a Christian Writer.

I shall therefore produce an Instance of this excellent Frame of Mind in a Speech of Socrates, which is quoted by Erasmus.

This great Philosopher on the Day of his Execution, a little before the Draught of Poison was brought to him, entertaining his Friends with a Discourse on the Immortality of the Soul, has these Words:  Whether or no God will approve of my Actions, I know not; but this I am sure of, that I have at all Times made it my Endeavour to please him, and I have a good Hope that this my Endeavour will be accepted by him. We find in these Words of that great Man the habitual good Intention which I would here inculcate, and with which that divine Philosopher always acted.  I shall only add, that Erasmus, who was an unbigotted Roman Catholick, was so much transported with this Passage of Socrates, that he could scarce forbear looking upon him as a Saint, and desiring him to pray for him; or as that ingenious and learned Writer has expressed himself in a much more lively manner:  When I reflect on such a Speech pronounced by such a Person, I can scarce forbear crying out, Sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis:  O holy Socrates, pray for us. [7]


[Footnote 1:  Rom. vii. 16.]

[Footnote 2:  Arnica Collatio de Veritate Relig.  Christ. cum Erudito Judaeo, published in 1687, by Philippe de Limborch, who was eminent as a professor of Theology at Amsterdam from 1667 until his death, in 1712, at the age of 79.  But the learned Jew was the Spanish Physician Isaac Orobio, who was tortured for three years in the prisons of the Inquisition on a charge of Judaism.  He admitted nothing, was therefore set free, and left Spain for Toulouse, where he practised physic and passed as a Catholic until he settled at Amsterdam.  There he made profession of the Jewish faith, and died in the year of the publication of Limborchs friendly discussion with him.

The Uriel Acosta, with whom Addison confounds Orobio, was a gentleman of Oporto who had embraced Judaism, and, leaving Portugal, had also gone to Amsterdam.  There he was circumcised, but was persecuted by the Jews themselves, and eventually whipped in the synagogue for attempting reformation of the Jewish usages, in which, he said, tradition had departed from the law of Moses.  He took his thirty-nine lashes, recanted, and lay across the threshold of the synagogue for all his brethren to walk over him.  Afterwards he endeavoured to shoot his principal enemy, but his pistol missed fire.  He had another about him, and with that he shot himself.  This happened about the year 1640, when Limborch was but a child of six or seven.]

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